- What is the DASH diet?
- Here are 10 easy tips to practice the DASH diet to protect your heart
- How to get started with the DASH diet?
What is the DASH diet?
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or high blood pressure.
The DASH Diet can help lower your blood pressure and balance your cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart health. Even if you are not worried about your blood pressure right now, the DASH Diet is worth following as it can help with healthy weight loss. This healthy diet recommends vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy while minimizing fats, cholesterol-rich foods and sweets.
Here are 10 easy tips to practice the DASH diet to protect your heart
1. Cut back on the salt
Excess salt in our diet causes fluid buildup in our body, putting extra pressure on the heart. Reducing salt in the diet can lower blood pressure. The DASH diet advises 1500 or 2300 milligrams of salt per day, depending on your health, age, race and other medical conditions.
How to cut back on salt?
- Pick low sodium or zero sodium food
- Watch out for cured, smoked and pickled foods
- Limit processed foods that are usually high-sodium
2. Go whole grain
Whole grains are rich in fiber. So go for whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and popcorn. Fiber helps lower your cholesterol and also keeps you feeling full longer.
For example – for a 2000 calorie daily diet, eat 6-8 servings of whole grains. One serving equals a slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or ½ cup of cooked whole wheat pasta, rice, or oatmeal (about the size of half a baseball).
3. Load up on veggies
Vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. The good news is, they are also low-calorie and low-fat – and ideal for controlling your blood pressure.
Include four or five servings of vegetables in your daily diet. Each serving can be
- Half a cup of cooked or raw veggies or
- One cup of raw leafy veggies or
- Half cup of vegetable juice
Start by including a salad at lunch or dinner.
4. Eat fruits
Fruits are rich in heart-healthy fiber and vitamins, besides potassium and magnesium which help lower blood pressure.
Eat four to five servings of fruit every day. One serving equals:
- One medium-sized apple or orange
- Half a cup of frozen, fresh, or canned fruit
- One-half cup of fruit juice
- One-fourth cup of dried fruit
Easy ways to enjoy fruit are adding bananas or berries to your breakfast cereal or having fruit for dessert.
5. Have Some Yogurt
Low-fat and no-fat dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein that help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Get three servings of dairy every day. One serving is one cup of yogurt or milk or one and a half ounces of cheese—about the size of three dice. Pick skim or 1% milk and go for low-fat or no-fat cheese and yogurt or frozen low-fat yogurt
6. Opt for lean meats and fish
Of you are a meat-eater, make sure it is lean meat. Meats are good sources of protein and magnesium. You can also have skinless chicken and fish. Stick to less than six servings a day. One serving equals one ounce of cooked meat, fish, poultry or one egg. Avoid exceeding three ounces of meat per meal – for reference, that’s the size of an iPhone.
7. Include nuts and legumes in your diet
Nuts, legumes, and seeds are rich in magnesium, protein, and fiber. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower your risk of heart disease. About five servings per week is ideal. Each serving is:
- One-third cup of nuts
- Two tablespoons of seeds
- Half a cup of cooked dried beans or peas
Enjoy a handful of seeds or nuts as a snack. Add beans to your salads and soups.
8. Limit fats and oils
Too much fat in your diet can raise your cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. The DASH diet recommends two to three servings of fat and oil per day. One serving is:
- One teaspoon of margarine or vegetable oil
- One tablespoon of mayonnaise
- Two tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing.
For cooking, preferably go for healthy vegetable oils like olive oil and canola rather than butter.
9. Go easy on the sweets
You need not avoid sweets altogether, but try to limit them to five or less servings a week. What counts as a serving?
- One tablespoon of sugar or jam
- One cup of lemonade
- Half a cup of sorbet
Choose low-fat sweets like gelatin, hard candy, or maple syrup. Swap out high-fat desserts for fresh fruit.
10. Get Enough Potassium
Potassium is a mineral that helps lower blood pressure and a crucial part of the DASH diet. Food sources of potassium are preferable over supplements. Target 4,700 milligrams (mg) a day via these potassium-rich foods:
- Potato: 610 mg
- Sweet potato: 542 mg
- Banana: 422 mg
- Avocado (1/2): 487 mg
- Cooked spinach (1/2 cup): 419 mg
How to get started with the DASH diet?
As you can see from the above ten tips, it is not really tough to follow the DASH diet. All you need to do is make some changes to your daily diet. Here is what you can do:
- Keep a food diary for a week and note down everything you eat
- Based on this, make some changes
Of course, it is not just diet that keeps us healthy; we also need to stay physically active and exercise, besides get enough sleep for overall well-being. Talk to your doctor for advice about your daily calorie goal, based on your body weight, your activity rate and any existing health conditions to make a plan.